There is tendency among some members of the Church in the Philippines to be overly concerned about maintaining “clean hands” when engaging with government agencies in projects for the common good. Concerned with maintaining moral purity and avoiding possible scandal some clergy and laity have raised objections to certain forms of engagement.
For example, an objection was made by some bishops and pro-life groups about the Standard Days Method (SDM) of natural family planning. SDM had been developed by Georgetown University with funding from USAID. Easy to use and teach, SDM has enabled couples to switch from contraception to natural family planning. The objection was raised that SDM was “tainted” by USAID funding. In the past, USAID had supplied free contraceptives to government population programs in the country. In rejecting USAID, the objectors ignored the fact that the development of SDM is a positive contribution to the promotion of natural family planning. The objectors also ignore the fact that Catholic Relief Services and USAID have had common projects to help many disadvantaged people across the globe. An unfortunate result of this objection to SDM is the hesitancy of some bishops to include SDM in their diocesan family life programs, limiting the options of couples who wish to use natural family planning.
In another example, the bishops’ conference has instructed parishes to avoid soliciting or receiving donations from gambling sources in order not to promote a culture of gambling. The directive does not acknowledge the reality that many religious and non-government organizations that provide services to the poor have been helped by donations of funds and equipment from government-run lotteries, sweepstakes, and casinos. The dangers and abuses of gambling certainly should be addressed but the Church cannot deny that funding from legalized gambling supports many social services in the country which otherwise would remain unfunded.
It is a noble aim for Catholics to desire to be morally blameless. However it is a contrary to Christian charity to demonize organizations or agencies based on a single issue such as contraception or gambling while ignoring their contributions to the common good. These organizations and agencies are also made up of persons seeking to do good in a complex world. The Church should not see itself as a class of moral elites but rather a community of sinners seeking to respond to the call of Christ to repentance, humility, and compassion. Rather than being overly concerned about maintaining “clean hands” the Church should heed Pope Francis’ words: “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. . . More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us, 'Give them something to eat.'"(Evangelii Gaudium, #49)